What does it take to be able to sit in the “fancy” chair? – News from the Beach Metro community


Dr. Mary Choi grew up going to school at the beach and now owns and operates Soma and Soul Wellness on Kingston Road. Photo by Mimi Liliefeldt.


Everyone has their own definition of success. For many it’s financial security, for some it’s creative fulfillment, and for others it’s the culmination of factors.

For Dr. Mary Choi, a well-known naturopathic doctor, a symbol of success is a fancy chair.

Dr Mary is a busy mother of four and in her fourth year of owning and operating Soma and Soul Wellness, a holistic integrative health clinic on Kingston Road just east of Victoria Park Avenue.

Mary grew up and went to school here at the beach. His parents immigrated from Korea in the 1970s and owned the Beach Food Mart on Queen Street East for many decades.

“No one probably remembers the name of the store, but everyone called it Suzie and Charlie’s,” Mary informed me.

Like many immigrants, Mary’s parents worked tirelessly to lay the foundation for generational success.

“My parents worked every day of the year. They never closed. On Christmas Day, we were at the store. I can tell you (only) a handful of vacations, ”Mary told me, describing her parents’ work ethic.

When you start your life in a new country, you don’t have much of a safety net. People are much less likely to be able or to feel comfortable taking time off. Even though they have family here, they are probably in similar circumstances.

Mary spoke of starting to see more Asians and non-whites in high positions and said, “I think that’s the work ethic, that’s the difference.”

She referred to a quote she heard from the CEO of Peleton, “There is an element of hunger (among immigrants)”. Work ethics play an important role in success, especially when you don’t have to rely on nepotism.

Nepotism is a gift of privilege. Nepotism says I help you because we want to keep the power in our circle. Social conscience says that I am helping you because we are all in the same boat. The distance between them is vast, but anyway, there is no self-made.

Soon after arriving in Canada, Mary’s mother met a local woman who would become an important friend and family member.

Mary Littlewood, a Canadian missionary named after Mary herself, helped Sue acclimatize to Canadian culture.

“She welcomed my mother. She taught my mother English, how to eat with a knife and fork, and taught her the Canadian way. Mary Littlewood has become an adoptive grandmother to us, ”Mary told me, giving a great example of how society can be more successful when we help each other, regardless of our differences.

Differences are what make us interesting and when we explore them with an open heart, they can be the foundation for a better understanding of our humanity. But being different, especially as a child, is difficult. Mary developed this idea with examples from her childhood.

“My mother brought strawberries, flowers and things to the teachers. Koreans love to give gifts and food, serve others and that’s what she did. None of my other friends’ parents did that sort of thing. I was mortified. When there was kimchi in our house, my friends were very loud, saying “it was disgusting, it smelled like feet!” You are a teenager, your MO (modius operandi) is to be accepted and not to stand out.

Standing out when you’re young quickly teaches you how to fit in.

“The cool part of growing up in white communities is that you learn to fit in. I grew up Asian so I know it can be a little short or simple, but you learn the ways of the white world, ”said Mary.

This ability to integrate was an important survival skill for us POC as we sailed in our youth. In fact, it’s only now that conversations and perceptions have opened that many of us feel more able to embrace our differences.

There is a self-awareness that surfaces when you are singled out. And there are times when being singled out can be dangerous, demeaning, or uncomfortable; and thus, we learn to adapt to protect our ability to feel secure.

Even racism itself is a manifestation (albeit irrational) of people fearing to lose their safety or security.

Marie explained it this way:

“Everyone sees things through their own lens and is engrossed in their own affairs, we don’t always enter into an open and reflective conversation about the other individual. What’s unfortunate, but I think what’s at the root of it all is that we all have the same basic human needs, and when your needs feel threatened you see a lot of these things (cyberbullying, racism). , nastiness). That’s what it all comes down to, “Am I safe?”

Marie herself chooses not to live in fear.

“My nature is that I’m not that sensitive. I am open to people and where they are from. I understand that not everyone has the same education or the same experience ”, but she believes in more open dialogue to help us understand each other better.

The generosity of the spirit of Mary strikes me. The whole time we were chatting I was wondering where was her feeling of unease or injustice around these topics and then suddenly she said something that made me understand.

“It’s not that I’m so passive in this space, it’s that I’m so focused on helping people get better, it’s more my point of view. I think if we could be more in the space to know how to accept everyone and celebrate our differences, I think that would be amazing.

Everything about Mary fell into place with that statement. I understood that deep down, she is a healer. This is what makes all of his hard work such a success. Even when the stakes are high, she’s ready to look at issues holistically and from all angles, not just her own.

I asked Mary what made her feel safe and she said, “Financial security and work make me feel safe. My parents have shaped this for me all my life. And of course the health and well-being of my family.

Mary’s drive to succeed was illustrated by a story she told me.

“My parents never bought us gifts, they didn’t have the money for it, but one year my mom gave us (my sister and I) these chairs. They were small porcelain figurines; they were hand painted chairs and very regal. And she said, “Someday my dream is for you to sit on these chairs. This is why I am working for you, to have this in your future. It impressed me so much. “

What Mary’s story enlightened for me is that success really comes down to hard work, but without the strength of kindness, cooperation and love, we will never be able to sit in our own right. own fancy chair.

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